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Power to the purchaser

Having finally gotten back from running way too many errands, at the tail end of a season of rampant consumerism, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the way we buy things. If you’re reading this, chances are you live in a mostly capitalism-driven economy. That reality, of course, come with pros and cons. One of the cons is that companies and corporations sometimes prioritize profit over integrity and ethical practices. One of the pros is that you, as a consumer, get to choose what companies you give money to.

This means that any practice or belief you hold to strongly can, in theory, be supported further through what you do or don’t buy (and who you do or don’t buy from). This might mean buying organic produce and free-range chicken products, not buying products that were tested on animals, or ensuring that something you buy is local or fair trade.

Sometimes, of course, convenience or cost may make sticking to any buying preferences difficult if not impossible. For many emerging adults who are on stricter budgets than more established adults, sometimes purchasing power is a lot more limited than we’d like.

Here are some quick numbers:

  • Despite Millennials earning only 62.6% of the pre-tax income that Gen-Xers do, housing for Millennials costs an average of 75% of housing costs for Gen-Xers.1
  • Millennials spend two-thirds the amount spent by Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers on entertainment.1
  • 60% of Millennials prefer to purchase generic brands over name brands.2
  • Nearly 50% of Millennials would be more willing to make a purchase from a company if that specific purchase supports a cause.2
  • 81% of Millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to charitable causes and corporate citizenship.3

In other words, a lot of us care how we’re spending our money — even though we have less buying power than older generations do now, and in many cases less than they did at our age. (Caused by things like the fact that in the U.S., college tuition and fees have increased approximately 225% over the last 30 years4, while the average wage index has only increased 26.6%.5)

I care about putting my money where my mouth is as much as is reasonably possible. I’ll buy less from — or cut out completely — brands whose ethics, environmental, and/or labor practices I don’t agree with. But sometimes it’s hard. I love to shop local and support small businesses, but having to buy a bunch of last-minute Christmas gifts meant that Amazon was infinitely more practical.

So how do we balance the two? I don’t have the perfect answer, but these are a few practices I’m going to be trying to implement more in 2019:

  • Read the labels. This is literally the easiest one. Look for labels (in-stores or online) that proclaim practices you want to support. And know when it’s just a marketing ploy: organic and fair trade can be certified, but words like “natural” don’t require any proof of standards
  • Source it. Find out where your stuff is coming from. Usually, the closer to home the more sustainably and/or ethically it’s been made. Not always, of course, but buying local also means a smaller carbon footprint!
  • Look into the company. I’m of the mindset that the bigger the company is, the more cautious I need to be about blindly purchasing from them, as large corporations too often hurt the little guy to stuff the pockets of higher-ups. I buy from a lot of chains and big retailers anyways, but I do try to buy less and at least be aware of their practices as a consumer.
  • Know the real cost difference. Keep in mind that sometimes cheap, mass-produced stuff won’t last as long or will be worse for you in the long run than spending a little more for practices and quality you can get behind.
  • Find other ways to support. If you find a brand whose practices you really like and want to support, say so. That can mean telling friends, following them on social media, buying more of their product, whatever.
  • Be honest about what you can afford. I’ll be honest: I don’t buy all fair-trade, sustainable, organic stuff. I can’t afford it all the time, and I know a lot of other folks can’t either. At that point, you have to determine which purchases are worth it to you, and which ones are areas where you’re okay sticking to the status quo.

This is something I definitely don’t do as well as I’d like, but I hope it’s one that we as a society can continuously improve at. As much as I appreciate low costs and convenience, I want to take care of all the people, creatures, and resources that inhabit our world — and that often means saying so with my wallet.

What do you do for more ethical purchasing? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018.

2 Millennial Marketing, 2018.

3 Horizon Media Finger on the Pulse Study, via Forbes, 2014.

4 CollegeBoard, 2018.

5 Social Security Administration, 2017.

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Taking down jet lag

Hi folks! Sorry it has been so long since my last post — I was sick (still getting over it actually) and then out of town for 11 days, but I’m back! That being said, I only got back yesterday evening, and am therefore very tired.

After flying nearly 7,000 miles yesterday, I am, predictably, a little jet lagged. This was my first international trip in a while (a post on it coming soon), but I travel across time zones a couple times a year. As such, it’s always an adjustment to get back on schedule once home, so that’s what today’s post is on.

Emerging adulthood means we’re responsible for our own sleep schedules and generally making it through the day. That, combined with so many Millennials and young adults wanting to travel, means we have to know how to combat jet lag. Different tips and tricks work better for some people than others, but here are the things I’ve found most helpful:

  • Sleep on the plane. If you can sleep on the flight (or train or whatever) at least a little, this will help you immensely. Traveling itself is way tiring, so give yourself a chance to rest while you’re already stuck in a seat.
  • Keep track of the hours. Know what time your body thinks it is in both the time zone you were in and the one you’re going to, and keep that in mind when planning your sleep schedule.
  • Ease back into your normal routine. I got back from my trip before dinnertime yesterday, and could have gotten to sleep basically right away. But I made myself stay up until 9 to get a little closer to my normal schedule while still leaving extra time to sleep.
  • Use safe, natural, gentle aids. I’m not a big proponent of serious energy or sleep aids — or even gentle ones for constant use — but this is a time that can be well worth it.
    • For energy: snacks with protein and a little sugar (i.e. cheese and fruit), green tea, a little coffee, a cool shower, a quick walk
    • For sleep: melatonin, herbal (non-caffeinated) tea, magnesium, lavender, a warm shower
  • Don’t nap. I love naps. Love them. But when you’re trying to get your body back to normal, they’re counterproductive. Alternatively, go to bed a little earlier or let yourself sleep in a little later, but stay up and active during daytime hours.
  • Don’t push it. Better to have a weird sleep schedule for a little bit than be super cranky or get sick, so if your body really needs sleep, go for it. If it’s the middle of the night and you’ve tried everything but are still wide awake, do a couple of small productive things (ones that don’t involve screens, as the blue light prevents sleep) before trying to go back to bed. The most important thing is nudging your body back to a good routine.

What have you found most effective for fighting jet lag? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. Happy Halloween! My costume was a lot less involved this year than last year (for the reasons above haha), but per tradition here is my favorite ’80s movie come to life!

take-a-day.jpg

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On a jet plane

I just got back from a trip across the country, and have some even bigger travel plans coming up in a few weeks. Which means I am quickly become reacquainted with spending lots and lots of time on planes and in airports.

Chances are you’ve taken a few flights in your lifetime, but if you’re anything like the average emerging adult (particularly Millennials), you’re hoping to travel a lot more in the future — and learning to handle flights and airports like a pro is a necessity.

As always, the disclaimer: I have taken a lot of flights in my life, but I am by no means the expert. I’ve flown tiny 40-minute domestic puddle jumpers, and 19-plus-hour treks halfway across the globe. But I haven’t been to every continent or country, haven’t dealt with every travel challenge, and so on. Even still, I hope you’ll find some of this helpful.

Booking your flights

  • Book early. If at all possible, booking early can save you quite a bit. Adulthood means (usually) paying for your own flights, so this is a big deal.
  • Alternately, book really late. If you’re the kind of person who is cool with last-minute travel plans (note: I am not this person), then waiting until the last minute can offer up some phenomenal deals.
  • Travel sites. Comparing prices on sites like Kayak, or booking flights with a package through a site like Tripmasters can help you find deals you might not otherwise be able to.
  • Know your standards. Budget airlines like Wow Air and Ryanair can be super cost-effective — if you’re willing to deal with the small spaces, weird schedules, and cost of checking luggage. I’m cool to fly budget or coach, but there are certain airlines I simply don’t like, so I won’t book with them even if it means spending more money.
  • Pay attention to what your airline does and doesn’t cover. Know ahead of time if it will cost you extra (and how much) to check a bag, if you choose your seat when you book, or any other details that impact the cost and comfort of your trip.

Packing

  • I am far from the most efficient packer. I tend to over-pack, but I am (slowly) working on it. I have a 10-day trip coming up and am attempting to make everything I’ll need fit in a carryon and a backpack. We’ll see how it goes.
  • Make a list. If I don’t make a packing list, I will forget something important. Just a fact. I try to make the list several hours or even a day before I pack so there’s time for my subconscious to remember things I forgot to put on the list.
  • You only need one extra. I’m not the person who will tell you to only pack clothes for the exact length of time you’ll be gone. Sometimes stuff happens, and you need a spare. But you don’t need that many. A good rule of thumb is 1-2 extra pairs of underwear, 1 extra shirt, and just what you need of basically everything else.
  • Make it versatile. Especially with bottoms and shoes, don’t bring something you’ll only wear once unless it’s for a specific occasion you know you’ll be at. Lots of things (except underwear!) can be worn more than once.
  • Minimize your toiletries. This isn’t a problem for some people, but is one I tend to struggle with. Make sure everything is travel-size (3 ounces or less), and only bring the things you’ll actually need while you’re on the trip — which may mean emptying out your usual toiletry bag and opting not to bring once-in-a-while or half-empty items.
  • Be prepared. On the flipside, under-packing sucks. Like the time I spent a month in England and didn’t bring an umbrella or shoes that were good in the rain. The good news is you can often buy stuff there if you need to (I still use the umbrella I bought there and am wearing the shoes right now), but it’s better to have what you’ll need. Think about weather, what activities you’ll be doing, and any random elements like maps or chargers.
  • Leave room. If you’ll be going somewhere you plan on bringing extra things home from (souvenirs, gifts, etc.) then be sure to leave some extra room in your bag.
  • Roll it up. I tend to fold clothes, but if you’re tight for space, rolling them is without a doubt the most efficient way to pack.
  • Wear the bulk. If you have some larger clothing items that you need to bring (jackets, boots, etc.), try to wear them on the plane. Then there’s more room in your bag and you still get your bigger items without a problem.

The airport

  • Check in ahead of time. If you’re able to check in for your flight online, it will save you time and stress at the airport.
  • Dress comfortably. You’re going to be walking around, sitting around, and then sitting in an even tinier area on your flight. Wear something you’ll be comfortable in for the duration of the trip.
  • Get there early. If it’s a domestic flight, I like to be there about an hour and a half early. It leaves plenty of time to get through security and maybe get a bite to eat without feeling like I’m there forever.
  • If it’s close to a holiday or you’re flying international, get there extra early. The security lines are endlessly long around holidays, and international flights are not something you want to cut close on time around. I’d recommend a minimum of 2 hours before your flight.
  • Have your documents ready. Make sure you know where your ID and boarding pass are, as well as anything else you’ll need handy.
  • Don’t make insensitive jokes. This should go without saying, but please don’t talk about terrorist attacks or guns or explosives. It’s not only rude but dangerous, and could get you in a lot of trouble (same goes for on the plane).
  • Be a nice person. Make room for people who are clearly in a rush, don’t move super slow in the middle of a walkway, general thoughtful travel stuff.

The plane ride

  • If you get to choose your seat, choose it wisely. I fly Southwest a lot, so I usually choose my seat based on my priority. If I want to get off the plane asap when it lands, I’ll take anything that’s close to the front of the plane. If it’s a long flight or I mostly care about bring comfortable, I go for a window. If I just downed a lot of water, the aisle seat is my friend.
  • Entertain yourself. Being bored on a plane sucks. If you’re already asleep before takeoff, good for you. Otherwise, I recommend books, puzzles, music, podcasts, and movies to make all that time stuck in one seat a little more manageable.
  • Bring snacks. Not very many airlines feed you more than tiny bags of snacks (and depending on the flight sometimes don’t do that), so make sure you have food — especially if it’s a longer flight or close to a normal meal time. (Pro tip: TSA restricts liquids, but you can bring all the solid snacks you want.)
  • Stretch your legs. This gets more important the longer the flight is. I don’t like getting up on flights more than absolutely necessary, but doing so helps get the blood moving in your legs. At minimum, it helps keep your ankles from swelling, and can help prevent more serious conditions for some people. You can also do little exercises in your seat.
  • Don’t be a jerk. Aka don’t take both armrests, don’t put your stuff (including legs and feet) into your neighbor’s already limited foot space, don’t be mean to the parents trying to calm an upset baby. Also, be nice to the airline staff, they’re tired too.

What are some of your favorite tips for flying and travel? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because dang it’s so cool)

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Follow the sunbeam back up to the sun

Anyone who’s spent more than a few hours with me has probably heard me quote or reference C.S. Lewis. He has long been my favorite author (though ironically not the author of my favorite book), and portions from his writings have informed my perspectives on the world, life, and myself.

The little lesson I’ve been contemplating on recently is the idea of gratitude. Life has been full of a lot of ups and downs lately, and even the good things can sometimes feel overwhelming. A friend mentioned that one of her favorite ways to stay centered is gratitude, specifically listing things she’s thankful for. I realized that I’ve been doing a poor job of that, and have been working to change it.

Gratitude, at its most basic level, is acknowledging good things that affect you, and crediting the source of the good thing. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm, to be grateful is to follow the sunbeam back up to the sun. Seeing a sunbeam in a forest or feeling its warmth is the good thing, and tracing it back up to the sun is the act of gratitude.

The most interesting thing about gratitude is that, if you let it, it’s a chain reaction. If I feel the sunbeam and am grateful for it, I can extrapolate that to being grateful for the sun and the earth (and the atmosphere that makes the proximity hospitable), and the sheer improbability of it all existing in just this way, which for me is then a segue to faith. If I keep following the rabbit trail, I would never stop listing all the things I’m thankful for.

Externally it can be the same thing. An attitude of thankfulness and appreciation spreads among people so, so quickly. Part of that is thanks to our ingrained reciprocal, social nature as humans, but we all know that it also just feels good.

Growing up we were all taught to say thank you at the necessary times, but it’s surprising how much extra meaningful it can feel when unprompted. Maybe that means an extra thank you to your server at a restaurant, maybe it means writing a coworker a note to tell them how much you appreciate them. Maybe it means randomly sending a family member or close friend a text about why you’re grateful for them.

It can also be through gestures, not just words. Buying someone a cup of coffee or completing a task that makes things easier on them is an easy way to share your gratitude. I really like to bake, so now and then I bake treats for my office to boost morale after we’ve done a good job on a project.

And sometimes it’s just for you. Being an emerging adult is hard (no matter what anyone tells you), and being grateful is often the best way to shift your perspective if you’re feeling overwhelmed or negative. So here’s a quick list of some tips for practicing gratitude:

  • Write a list of things you’re thankful for — you can also keep a journal for this if you want something you can look back on
  • Tell or show someone why you’re grateful for them
  • Go for a walk or spend time outside with no agenda except to experience some part of nature that you enjoy
  • Look through some pictures or memorabilia that represent good memories
  • Think about things you’re looking forward to
  • Name some things you’re proud of about yourself, and then consider what/who helped you achieve those things

I also want to note that in no way is this intended to be flippant. While I do believe there are always things to be grateful for, it’s important to allow space for other emotions as well, especially in times of pain or crisis. It’s okay to be sad or angry or exhausted. Healthy gratitude will never replace those things, but it can come alongside them and hold you up when the rest of life feels heavy.

At the end of the day, you made it this far, you’ve got people who care about you, and you’ve got it in you to keep going. Sounds like some good things to be grateful for.

What are your favorite ways to practice gratitude? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because somehow I don’t have any of these?)

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Stretched too thin

We’re gonna kick this week’s post off with a very exciting announcement: My boyfriend proposed (and I said yes)! He is wonderful and made the whole experience incredibly special, and I’m very excited for the future.

That being said, the present is *ahem* quite busy. I work full time, try to exercise, have some upcoming plans with friends as well as two large upcoming trips, blog, do general adulting like cleaning the apartment, and now am also wedding planning. I am very used to juggling tasks and priorities, but the last couple of months have been less busy than I’m used to. Which for the most part was really nice.

As someone who’s prone to feeling overwhelmed quickly when here’s a lot on my plate, I was pretty proud of myself for not getting particularly stressed with the things starting to pile up. Until this morning. A big project with a tight deadline came in at work and I momentarily lost my cool.

Most of us, as emerging adults and people in general, have phases where we feel like we’re stretched too thin and we don’t know how or if we can get it all done. I know several people who are in the middle of one of those phases now. And while I’ve talked on here several times about what to do when you’re tired, need to take a day, or burnt out, today I wanted to talk about ways to dig in and get it done. Because sometimes that’s all you can do for a while.

Break it up. I don’t know about you but it’s rare that I can sit down and devote more than an hour or two to a single project before I need a break. So set a timer for 45 minutes, an hour, or some decent chunk of time that works for you and don’t touch anything else until that time is up. Alternately, you can break the work up into smaller, more reasonable goals. You’ll feel like you’re making progress even if it’s just checking off one small thing at a time.

Jam out. Depending on the kind of work you’re doing, listening to music can be a really, really good way to pass the time and keep yourself at a good pace. I have an instrumental playlist just for that, or I’ll throw on some music I know well enough that I don’t have to pay it much attention, and dive into my work.

Have snacks and water nearby. This will keep you from getting distracted every time you get up to get a bite to eat or a drink, and make sure you don’t skip too much sustenance or get dehydrated.

Set rewards. Tell yourself that when you accomplish a given task, you can have a treat of some sort, whether that’s food, a break, or something else. For example, my reward for working my butt off at work today will be no expectation of getting anything productive done at home tonight, and I bought myself a present when I finished my last big freelancing project.

Surround yourself well. My coworkers get all the credit for pulling me out of the totally negative spot I was stressed out in this morning. They’re task-oriented, and acknowledge the challenge while remaining functionally positive (in other words, not necessarily chipper, but optimistic that we’ll get the job done well).

What helps you most when you’ve got a lot on your plate? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because y’all have already seen all my city photos.)

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Tied to your desk

Hi all! This week has been very busy for a number of good reasons, which I’m hoping to make a post on very soon. But in the meantime, I’ve got some helpful advice. Whether you’re a student or full-time employee, classroom and office settings have one thing in common: sitting for a long time and staring at screens.

It can be fatiguing, boring, and even unhealthy to sit at a desk for 8 hours constantly looking at bright screens. So what to do about it?

In school I didn’t have it too bad in this regard. Classes changed every few hours and my campus was one big hillside, so I had a fair amount of walking in-between. I also didn’t bring my computer to class often, and when doing homework would take breaks whenever I needed. But I did intern in a couple of office, and found my eyes in particular getting incredibly fatigued. At my current job, I have a nice desk with a big computer monitor plus a laptop, and usually only have to get up to run to the printer or ask someone a question. In other words, I have a lot of sedentary time in front of screens.

It’s not good for us. Humans need natural light and reasonable amounts of movement throughout the day not just to be healthy, but to be focused and productive. So over time, I’ve found a few things that help:

  • Take 5. Go outside or even somewhere else in the office for a few minutes to resent your concentration, get a change of scenery, use your muscles, and give your eyes a break
  • Look further. When my eyes started getting computer-tired for the first time in college, I learned that you follow this 20-20-20 rule to help. Basically, every 20ish minutes, look at something 20 or more feet away for about 20 seconds. If your eyes are still getting fatigued, you can also look into getting glasses that minimize digital eye strain by blocking glare and combatting blue light (I got some almost a year ago and they make a huge difference).
  • Check your settings. Turn down your brightness, and make sure you’re sitting with your computer screen situated so you’re 20-24 inches from you and not having to crane up or down to see it. You can also adjust the color temperature on your monitor’s display to increase yellow light and decrease blue light. My laptop has an app called Flux that puts a yellowing filter on my display in the evening and keeps it until morning to make night work easier on my eyes and not fend off sleep.
  • Move around. It’s simple, we hear it all the time. But even moving around and stretching your legs while sitting — in addition to getting up and walking now and then — help keep your body in a better spot.
  • Sit up straight. Good posture is a learned habit. I’m not the best at it. But having a chair that ergonomically supports your back can minimize fatigue and aid focus when you’re stuck at your desk. Or sit on a medicine ball if it wouldn’t be too distracting (the reason why I don’t).
  • Let the light in. Make sure that you’re getting natural light if possible, but also that your lights aren’t too dim causing your eyes to strain. Adding pops of color into your desk space — especially with items like plants — can also make things easier on the eyes.

Do you have any helpful tips for sitting in front of the computer all day? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because my office isn’t the most photogrenic.)

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Parting ways with the clutter

I’m not the tidiest person you’ll ever meet. Some areas of my life are incredibly tidy, probably to the point of being annoying to other people. Some are, um, not. For example, I have to have the bed made every day, but am not allowed to have a desk anymore because I will cover any “spare” horizontal surface with piles of crap. The inside of my car is usually pretty free of trash and clutter, but until last weekend the outside looked like Pigpen’s 16th birthday present.

The point here is that there’s (sort of) a balance. Part of me would love to boast about fully embracing the Marie Kondo* lifestyle, with the kind of aesthetic minimalism that makes people feel both peaceful and impressed as soon as they walk in the room. In other words, part of me would love for my possessions to give you the impression that I have my whole life together.

But another part of me wants everything cushy with a ton of healthy houseplants and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with an honest-to-God rolling ladder because that is the dream. However, neither of these acknowledges the part of me that sometimes mentally just can’t deal and needs to put all those papers in a pile until I can handle them later.

So we compromise. I, as a typical American, have too much stuff. To be fair, I’ve been progressively whittling down my stuff over the past 5+ years. Growing up with two houses, I did not have two of everything, but I did have too much. Moving a lot, certain boxes just got moved around and never gone through. And if I could find some little corner to tuck stuff in (which I am very good at), then I never had to deal with it because I couldn’t see it. But that shouldn’t be the norm. So began the rounds of purging.

The first big one was when I left for college. I spent days — and utilized the help of several people — to go through literally every item I owned and get rid of as much as possible. The nice thing is I had the time to be fun and nostalgic about it, and I really did get rid of a ton.

I tried to do at least a medium purge at the end of every school year, because I had to singlehandedly pack up everything I had brought to school and either store it or fit it in my car and drive it to the other end of the state. (Side note: This improved my already very efficient car-packing skills. It’s real-life Tetris.)

I did another sort-of purge during the months after college. With personal belongings, it was more like sorting because a lot was stuff I’d need again as soon as I moved out. But I did the most thorough purge of old school stuff I had ever completed and it felt amazing. I had saved so many papers and books and general crap because “I might need to go back and find it one day.” Let me tell you: The only things from college that I have gone back to were a very short list of books, notes and assignments from like four classes, and some concepts that were an easy find on Google. What stuff have I gone back to from high school and grade school? Absolutely. Nothing.*

When I moved out was the latest big purge. It mattered to me that I feel fully moved out, and I didn’t want to make my parents deal with a bunch of my stuff in my old room. It wasn’t a flawless execution — as much as I got rid of, they’re still storing a number of boxes for me that my shared apartment simply doesn’t have room for. But those boxes contain almost solely childhood mementos and books. And when I have a bigger space, they’ll come with me and be whittled down again.

But I still have too much stuff. So rather than doing one massive purge, I’ve been going through things in small bursts. And for a lot of us emerging adults, it’s a lot more feasible to tackle our crap that way than attempting to do it all at once. So here is everything I’ve learned in my effort to declutter my space:

  • Would you be sad if it were gone? This is my version of the “Does it bring you joy?” trick. If I would be disappointed not keeping a piece of art or old stuffed animal and regret it later, it matters enough that I can hold onto it — at least for now.
  • Do you need it? This serves a dual purpose: Some stuff is lame but necessary. I’m not sentimentally attached to my cleaning supplies, but I do need them. Some stuff is convenient, but not necessary. I don’t need as many sweaters as I own, so I figure out how many I “need” and get rid of the rest.
  • Do you use it? Also a good one for clothes, but excellent for random clutter and knickknacks. If I haven’t worn a pair of everyday shoes in more than a year, probably not worth keeping. If I avoid using that one blanket because I like the other ones better, I can let it go.
  • File things. Y’all. It can feel like an annoying adult thing, but having a file box is the best. I know where all my important papers are — and if they don’t belong in there, I probably don’t need them.
  • Find things a home. My boyfriend laughs that I phrase it like this, but this is where Marie Kondo and I agree: Treat your stuff like it lives there, and you want its home to be nice. If there isn’t a space where it can belong, it might be time to get rid of it.
  • Ditch duplicates. My current apartment is not the best at this because eventually we won’t all be living together and will want our own stuff when we leave, i.e. we have way more dishes than we need. But if you have multiple of something without a very good justification, pick your favorite and ditch the others.
  • Throw away your trash. I really can’t emphasize this one enough; it’s the only one I’m consistent about even in the more cluttered corners of my life. Trash is not worth the space it takes up. Throw it out (and recycle what you can).
  • It doesn’t have to be clutter-free, but it does have to be clean. A lot of us need at least a little space where we can be messy — it’s often an important part of psychological well-being. But don’t let it get gross, and turn into a health hazard and a source of stress. If you clean regularly, you’ll probably get rid of some unnecessary stuff at the same time. This is why I make the bed every morning and clean off my desk before leaving work.
  • Digital isn’t infinite. Unfortunately, computers and phones also run out of space, but most of the same principles apply as when decluttering tangible spaces: toss what you don’t need, organize what you do need so you can actually find it when you want it. Bonus tips: Keep items off your desktop in documents and other folders (or put your apps in folders for mobile) for some digital breathing room; emptying your trash, deleting old downloads, and restarting your device can all free up storage space.
  • It’s okay to have exceptions. I hate getting rid of pictures. Because especially the older they are, the less likely it is you can get it back. I also own a ton of books, and allow myself to keep more than I need in that category. That being said, the pictures still have to be organized and the books can’t exceed the shelves (even if they are full to the brim).

I know that was a lot, but I hope it proves helpful in making your space feel a little more manageable.

What are your best tips for decluttering? (Seriously, I’m still in the process and could use the help.) Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

*Marie Kondo is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, aka the first thing most people will bring up when you mention decluttering.

**This isn’t to say you shouldn’t save anything. My mom has a manila folder with the “best of the best” of my brother’s and my schoolwork from each grade, including the spelling test I got a 0% on in 2nd grade, which she occasionally pulls out for a life lesson that it’s okay to fail. I’ve kept some small items that friends gave me or we made. The point is just that the memories are more important than the paper.

(Photo is a free stock photo because this type of space is my goal.)